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Chapter 12

  • Two tall, bearded white men moved cautiously through the jungle from thei_amp beside a wide river. They were Carl Jenssen and Sven Malbihn, but littl_ltered in appearance since the day, years before, that they and their safar_ad been so badly frightened by Korak and Akut as the former sought haven wit_hem. Every year had they come into the jungle to trade with the natives, o_o rob them; to hunt and trap; or to guide other white men in the land the_new so well. Always since their experience with The Sheik had they operate_t a safe distance from his territory.
  • Now they were closer to his village than they had been for years, yet saf_nough from discovery owing to the uninhabited nature of the intervenin_ungle and the fear and enmity of Kovudoo's people for The Sheik, who, in tim_ast, had raided and all but exterminated the tribe.
  • This year they had come to trap live specimens for a European zoologica_arden, and today they were approaching a trap which they had set in the hop_f capturing a specimen of the large baboons that frequented the neighborhood.
  • As they approached the trap they became aware from the noises emanating fro_ts vicinity that their efforts had been crowned with success. The barking an_creaming of hundreds of baboons could mean naught else than that one or mor_f their number had fallen a victim to the allurements of the bait.
  • The extreme caution of the two men was prompted by former experiences with th_ntelligent and doglike creatures with which they had to deal. More than on_rapper has lost his life in battle with enraged baboons who will hesitate t_ttack nothing upon one occasion, while upon another a single gun shot wil_isperse hundreds of them.
  • Heretofore the Swedes had always watched near-by their trap, for as a rul_nly the stronger bulls are thus caught, since in their greediness the_revent the weaker from approaching the covered bait, and when once within th_rdinary rude trap woven on the spot of interlaced branches they are able, with the aid of their friends upon the outside, to demolish their prison an_scape. But in this instance the trappers had utilized a special steel cag_hich could withstand all the strength and cunning of a baboon. It was onl_ecessary, therefore, to drive away the herd which they knew were surroundin_he prison and wait for their boys who were even now following them to th_rap.
  • As they came within sight of the spot they found conditions precisely as the_ad expected. A large male was battering frantically against the steel wire_f the cage that held him captive. Upon the outside several hundred othe_aboons were tearing and tugging in his aid, and all were roaring an_abbering and barking at the top of their lungs.
  • But what neither the Swedes nor the baboons saw was the half-naked figure of _outh hidden in the foliage of a nearby tree. He had come upon the scene a_lmost the same instant as Jenssen and Malbihn, and was watching th_ctivities of the baboons with every mark of interest.
  • Korak's relations with the baboons had never been over friendly. A species o_rmed toleration had marked their occasional meetings. The baboons and Aku_ad walked stiff legged and growling past one another, while Korak ha_aintained a bared fang neutrality. So now he was not greatly disturbed by th_redicament of their king. Curiosity prompted him to tarry a moment, and i_hat moment his quick eyes caught the unfamiliar coloration of the clothing o_he two Swedes behind a bush not far from him. Now he was all alertness. Wh_ere these interlopers? What was their business in the jungle of the Mangani?
  • Korak slunk noiselessly around them to a point where he might get their scen_s well as a better view of them, and scarce had he done so when he recognize_hem—they were the men who had fired upon him years before. His eyes blazed.
  • He could feel the hairs upon his scalp stiffen at the roots. He watched the_ith the intentness of a panther about to spring upon its prey.
  • He saw them rise and, shouting, attempt to frighten away the baboons as the_pproached the cage. Then one of them raised his rifle and fired into th_idst of the surprised and angry herd. For an instant Korak thought that th_aboons were about to charge, but two more shots from the rifles of the whit_en sent them scampering into the trees. Then the two Europeans advanced upo_he cage. Korak thought that they were going to kill the king. He care_othing for the king but he cared less for the two white men. The king ha_ever attempted to kill him— the white men had. The king was a denizen of hi_wn beloved jungle—the white men were aliens. His loyalty therefore was to th_aboon against the human. He could speak the language of the baboon—it wa_dentical to that of the great apes. Across the clearing he saw the jabberin_orde watching.
  • Raising his voice he shouted to them. The white men turned at the sound o_his new factor behind them. They thought it was another baboon that ha_ircled them; but though they searched the trees with their eyes they sa_othing of the now silent figure hidden by the foliage. Again Korak shouted.
  • "I am The Killer," he cried. "These men are my enemies and yours. I will hel_ou free your king. Run out upon the strangers when you see me do so, an_ogether we will drive them away and free your king."
  • And from the baboons came a great chorus: "We will do what you say, Korak."
  • Dropping from his tree Korak ran toward the two Swedes, and at the sam_nstant three hundred baboons followed his example. At sight of the strang_pparition of the half-naked white warrior rushing upon them with uplifte_pear Jenssen and Malbihn raised their rifles and fired at Korak; but in th_xcitement both missed and a moment later the baboons were upon them. No_heir only hope of safety lay in escape, and dodging here and there, fightin_ff the great beasts that leaped upon their backs, they ran into the jungle.
  • Even then they would have died but for the coming of their men whom they met _ouple of hundred yards from the cage.
  • Once the white men had turned in flight Korak gave them no further attention, turning instead to the imprisoned baboon. The fastenings of the door that ha_luded the mental powers of the baboons, yielded their secret immediately t_he human intelligence of The Killer, and a moment later the king baboo_tepped forth to liberty. He wasted no breath in thanks to Korak, nor did th_oung man expect thanks. He knew that none of the baboons would ever forge_is service, though as a matter of fact he did not care if they did. What h_ad done had been prompted by a desire to be revenged upon the two white men.
  • The baboons could never be of service to him. Now they were racing in th_irection of the battle that was being waged between their fellows and th_ollowers of the two Swedes, and as the din of battle subsided in th_istance, Korak turned and resumed his journey toward the village of Kovudoo.
  • On the way he came upon a herd of elephants standing in an open forest glade.
  • Here the trees were too far apart to permit Korak to travel through th_ranches—a trail he much preferred not only because of its freedom from dens_nderbrush and the wider field of vision it gave him but from pride in hi_rboreal ability. It was exhilarating to swing from tree to tree; to test th_rowess of his mighty muscles; to reap the pleasurable fruits of his hard wo_gility. Korak joyed in the thrills of the highflung upper terraces of th_reat forest, where, unhampered and unhindered, he might laugh down upon th_reat brutes who must keep forever to the darkness and the gloom of the must_oil.
  • But here, in this open glade where Tantor flapped his giant ears and swaye_is huge bulk from side to side, the ape-man must pass along the surface o_he ground—a pygmy amongst giants. A great bull raised his trunk to rattle _ow warning as he sensed the coming of an intruder. His weak eyes roved hithe_nd thither but it was his keen scent and acute hearing which first locate_he ape-man. The herd moved restlessly, prepared for fight, for the old bul_ad caught the scent of man.
  • "Peace, Tantor," called The Killer. "It is I, Korak, Tarmangani."
  • The bull lowered his trunk and the herd resumed their interrupted meditations.
  • Korak passed within a foot of the great bull. A sinuous trunk undulated towar_im, touching his brown hide in a half caress. Korak slapped the grea_houlder affectionately as he went by. For years he had been upon good term_ith Tantor and his people. Of all the jungle folk he loved best the might_achyderm—the most peaceful and at the same time the most terrible of the_ll. The gentle gazelle feared him not, yet Numa, lord of the jungle, gave hi_ wide berth. Among the younger bulls, the cows and the calves Korak wound hi_ay. Now and then another trunk would run out to touch him, and once a playfu_alf grasped his legs and upset him.
  • The afternoon was almost spent when Korak arrived at the village of Kovudoo.
  • There were many natives lolling in shady spots beside the conical huts o_eneath the branches of the several trees which had been left standing withi_he enclosure. Warriors were in evidence upon hand. It was not a good time fo_ lone enemy to prosecute a search through the village. Korak determined t_wait the coming of darkness. He was a match for many warriors; but he coul_ot, unaided, overcome an entire tribe—not even for his beloved Meriem. Whil_e waited among the branches and foliage of a near-by tree he searched th_illage constantly with his keen eyes, and twice he circled it, sniffing th_agrant breezes which puffed erratically from first one point of the compas_nd then another. Among the various stenches peculiar to a native village th_pe-man's sensitive nostrils were finally rewarded by cognizance of th_elicate aroma which marked the presence of her he sought. Meriem was there— in one of those huts! But which one he could not know without close_nvestigation, and so he waited, with the dogged patience of a beast of prey, until night had fallen.
  • The camp fires of the blacks dotted the gloom with little points of light, casting their feeble rays in tiny circles of luminosity that brought int_listening relief the naked bodies of those who lay or squatted about them. I_as then that Korak slid silently from the tree that had hidden him an_ropped lightly to the ground within the enclosure.
  • Keeping well in the shadows of the huts he commenced a systematic search o_he village—ears, eyes and nose constantly upon the alert for the firs_ntimation of the near presence of Meriem. His progress must of necessity b_low since not even the keen-eared curs of the savages must guess the presenc_f a stranger within the gates. How close he came to a detection on severa_ccasions The Killer well knew from the restless whining of several of them.
  • It was not until he reached the back of a hut at the head of the wide villag_treet that Korak caught again, plainly, the scent of Meriem. With nose clos_o the thatched wall Korak sniffed eagerly about the structure—tense an_alpitant as a hunting hound. Toward the front and the door he made his wa_hen once his nose had assured him that Meriem lay within; but as he rounde_he side and came within view of the entrance he saw a burly Negro armed wit_ long spear squatting at the portal of the girl's prison. The fellow's bac_as toward him, his figure outlined against the glow of cooking fires furthe_own the street. He was alone. The nearest of his fellows were beside a fir_ixty or seventy feet beyond. To enter the hut Korak must either silence th_entry or pass him unnoticed. The danger in the accomplishment of the forme_lternative lay in the practical certainty of alarming the warriors near b_nd bringing them and the balance of the village down upon him. To achieve th_atter appeared practically impossible. To you or me it would have bee_mpossible; but Korak, The Killer, was not as you or I.
  • There was a good twelve inches of space between the broad back of the blac_nd the frame of the doorway. Could Korak pass through behind the savag_arrior without detection? The light that fell upon the glistening ebony o_he sentry's black skin fell also upon the light brown of Korak's. Should on_f the many further down the street chance to look long in this direction the_ust surely note the tall, light-colored, moving figure; but Korak depende_pon their interest in their own gossip to hold their attention fast where i_lready lay, and upon the firelight near them to prevent them seeing to_lainly at a distance into the darkness at the village end where his work lay.
  • Flattened against the side of the hut, yet not arousing a single warnin_ustle from its dried thatching, The Killer came closer and closer to th_atcher. Now he was at his shoulder. Now he had wormed his sinuous way behin_im. He could feel the heat of the naked body against his knees. He could hea_he man breathe. He marveled that the dull-witted creature had not long sinc_een alarmed; but the fellow sat there as ignorant of the presence of anothe_s though that other had not existed.
  • Korak moved scarcely more than an inch at a time, then he would stan_otionless for a moment. Thus was he worming his way behind the guard when th_atter straightened up, opened his cavernous mouth in a wide yawn, an_tretched his arms above his head. Korak stood rigid as stone. Another ste_nd he would be within the hut. The black lowered his arms and relaxed. Behin_im was the frame work of the doorway. Often before had it supported hi_leepy head, and now he leaned back to enjoy the forbidden pleasure of a ca_ap.
  • But instead of the door frame his head and shoulders came in contact with th_arm flesh of a pair of living legs. The exclamation of surprise that almos_urst from his lips was throttled in his throat by steel-thewed fingers tha_losed about his windpipe with the suddenness of thought. The black struggle_o arise—to turn upon the creature that had seized him—to wriggle from it_old; but all to no purpose. As he had been held in a mighty vise of iron h_ould not move. He could not scream. Those awful fingers at his throat bu_losed more and more tightly. His eyes bulged from their sockets. His fac_urned an ashy blue. Presently he relaxed once more—this time in the fina_issolution from which there is no quickening. Korak propped the dead bod_gainst the door frame. There it sat, lifelike in the gloom. Then the ape-ma_urned and glided into the Stygian darkness of the hut's interior.
  • "Meriem!" he whispered.
  • "Korak! My Korak!" came an answering cry, subdued by fear of alarming he_aptors, and half stifled by a sob of joyful welcome.
  • The youth knelt and cut the bonds that held the girl's wrists and ankles. _oment later he had lifted her to her feet, and grasping her by the hand le_er towards the entrance. Outside the grim sentinel of death kept his grisl_igil. Sniffing at his dead feet whined a mangy native cur. At sight of th_wo emerging from the hut the beast gave an ugly snarl and an instant later a_t caught the scent of the strange white man it raised a series of excite_elps. Instantly the warriors at the near-by fire were attracted. They turne_heir heads in the direction of the commotion. It was impossible that the_hould fail to see the white skins of the fugitives.
  • Korak slunk quickly into the shadows at the hut's side, drawing Meriem wit_im; but he was too late. The blacks had seen enough to arouse thei_uspicions and a dozen of them were now running to investigate. The yappin_ur was still at Korak's heels leading the searchers unerringly in pursuit.
  • The youth struck viciously at the brute with his long spear; but, lon_ccustomed to dodging blows, the wily creature made a most uncertain target.
  • Other blacks had been alarmed by the running and shouting of their companion_nd now the entire population of the village was swarming up the street t_ssist in the search. Their first discovery was the dead body of the sentry, and a moment later one of the bravest of them had entered the hut an_iscovered the absence of the prisoner. These startling announcements fille_he blacks with a combination of terror and rage; but, seeing no foe i_vidence they were enabled to permit their rage to get the better of thei_error, and so the leaders, pushed on by those behind them, ran rapidly aroun_he hut in the direction of the yapping of the mangy cur. Here they found _ingle white warrior making away with their captive, and recognizing him a_he author of numerous raids and indignities and believing that they had hi_ornered and at a disadvantage, they charged savagely upon him.
  • Korak, seeing that they were discovered, lifted Meriem to his shoulders an_an for the tree which would give them egress from the village. He wa_andicapped in his flight by the weight of the girl whose legs would bu_carce bear her weight, to say nothing of maintaining her in rapid flight, fo_he tightly drawn bonds that had been about her ankles for so long had stoppe_irculation and partially paralyzed her extremities.
  • Had this not been the case the escape of the two would have been a feat o_ittle moment, since Meriem was scarcely a whit less agile than Korak, an_ully as much at home in the trees as he. But with the girl on his shoulde_orak could not both run and fight to advantage, and the result was tha_efore he had covered half the distance to the tree a score of native cur_ttracted by the yelping of their mate and the yells and shouts of thei_asters had closed in upon the fleeing white man, snapping at his legs and a_ast succeeding in tripping him. As he went down the hyena-like brutes wer_pon him, and as he struggled to his feet the blacks closed in.
  • A couple of them seized the clawing, biting Meriem, and subdued her—a blo_pon the head was sufficient. For the ape-man they found more drastic measure_ould be necessary.
  • Weighted down as he was by dogs and warriors he still managed to struggle t_is feet. To right and left he swung crushing blows to the faces of his huma_ntagonists—to the dogs he paid not the slightest attention other than t_eize the more persistent and wring their necks with a single quick movemen_f the wrist.
  • A knob stick aimed at him by an ebon Hercules he caught and wrested from hi_ntagonist, and then the blacks experienced to the full the possibilities fo_unishment that lay within those smooth flowing muscles beneath the velve_rown skin of the strange, white giant. He rushed among them with all th_orce and ferocity of a bull elephant gone mad. Hither and thither he charge_triking down the few who had the temerity to stand against him, and it wa_vident that unless a chance spear thrust brought him down he would rout th_ntire village and regain his prize. But old Kovudoo was not to be so easil_obbed of the ransom which the girl represented, and seeing that their attac_hich had up to now resulted in a series of individual combats with the whit_arrior, he called his tribesmen off, and forming them in a compact body abou_he girl and the two who watched over her bid them do nothing more than repe_he assaults of the ape-man.
  • Again and again Korak rushed against this human barricade bristling with spea_oints. Again and again he was repulsed, often with severe wounds to cautio_im to greater wariness. From head to foot he was red with his own blood, an_t last, weakening from the loss of it, he came to the bitter realization tha_lone he could do no more to succor his Meriem.
  • Presently an idea flashed through his brain. He called aloud to the girl. Sh_ad regained consciousness now and replied.
  • "Korak goes," he shouted; "but he will return and take you from the Gomangani.
  • Good-bye, my Meriem. Korak will come for you again."
  • "Good-bye!" cried the girl. "Meriem will look for you until you come."
  • Like a flash, and before they could know his intention or prevent him, Kora_heeled, raced across the village and with a single leap disappeared into th_oliage of the great tree that was his highroad to the village of Kovudoo. _hower of spears followed him, but their only harvest was a taunting laug_lung back from out the darkness of the jungle.